With spring training right around the corner I’d like to take a moment to remind all those players attending minor league camp of the resolutions they swore they’d uphold, but have subsequently forgotten.
I’m not talking about stuff like working out harder, or running more, or even eating less. No, if you haven’t done that stuff by now, you’re pretty much screwed. I’m talking about those practical tips and tricks that make spring training more convenient. The ones you slapped yourself in the head over last year saying, “why didn’t I…” or, “next year, I swear I’m going to…”
Lets start by refreshing ourselves on the facts. Playing in the minors is one step above poverty. In minor league spring training you’ll get about $140 a week to live on, and NO paycheck. Thus, in order to make your money go as far as you can, you need to think outside the box.
Getting to spring training.
Airline companies suck, all of them, equally. And they suck particularly hard if you are flying coach, which you will be since you’re in the minors. On top of that, flying coach ensures you’ll be charged exorbitant fees for packing anything more than that required to survive for a four day excursion.
How do you avoid getting ripped off? Simple: ship your stuff to the spring training complex. All the extra crap you want, but don’t need to take with you on the flight, you know; extra gear, your gaming console, your collection of immaculately maintained and alphabetically organized adult entertainment— pack it all up and ship it ground.
If you’re the type player who believes the shoe makes the man, you’re right—they make you a poor man. All those super-fly sneakers you swear, when coupled with your fake earrings and slathered down hair, could help you score post game with cleat chasers will certainly have you paying extra at the check in counter. But, you can keep your mojo and your bank roll, and get a hundred pounds of “essentials” to your spring training residence for the same price you’d pay for going over fifty pounds at the airline weigh in. For the minor leaguer who can’t leave home without home, it’s the best way to go.
Just remember, when spring training ends you’ll have to find a way to get it all to it’s next location. Ask your spring training clubby to help you with this. He’ll have everything required to ship on hand, and, if you tip well, he might even ship it to the right place.
My second unsolicited nugget of wisdom has to do with eating once you’re at Spring training. Now look, the $140 weekly meal stipend is enough to cover meals, it really is. But if your meals include two man sodas at a sit down restaurant, plus tip, you’ll be broke before the weekend.
Remember, you’re not getting paid during spring training. If you eat beyond your allowance, it’s on you. This says nothing of other investments you might want to make, like chewing tobacco (if you’re a mother reading this article, replace tobacco with bubble gum) alcohol (Gatorade) video games (video games) or poker buy-ins (charitable contributions).
May I humbly suggest that you invest in Tupperware. Sexy? No. Practical? Yes. You can bring home a lot of food from the field in those glorious plastic containers, especially if your organization cooks its meals on site. With meals taken care of, the meal money is yours.
If your organization is a more “one scoop per player” type (Rays, I’m looking at you here) they probably give you more meal money to make up for it, or your spring training accommodations are closer to a grocery store.
This has it’s own advantages. Preparing your own food can save you a ton. If you don’t have a microwave or a mini fridge in your room, ask for it. If you still can’t get one, there is probably a microwave in the lobby. A fridge is ideal because it lets you store milk and leftovers, but a microwave allows you to make just about anything if you buy a Pyrex bowl, and a can opener—both dirt cheap. By doing this at my final minor league camp, I was able to make it a whole month on my first dispersal of meal money leaving me tons of extra money to spend on penny whistles and moon pies.
Choosing a Catch Partner.
Finally, my last tip is about picking the right throwing partner. This is a very simple tip which will sound remarkably racists at first, but you need to hear me out.
Unless you are a Latin pitcher yourself, DO NOT partner with a young Latin pitcher.
Why? Because young Latin pitchers, as a general rule, do not play catch, they play try-to-kill-you-with-a-baseball from near point blank range.
Seriously, if this is not your first sprint training, then you know what I’m talking about. The day you first saw a pair of young Latin pitchers throw max velocity at each other from 20 feet is no doubt etched into your mind. Remember; you couldn’t even see the ball, you could only hear the sound of it hitting leather. You watched from between the cracks in your fingers as you covered your face with your hands in terror. It’s like watching a game of chicken, or Russian roulette, or, well, Dominican roulette.
This has nothing to do with bigotry. It has everything to do with the cultural difference of how throwing is approached. Latin guys, by in large, throw ched (So much so that there was a song written about the matter set to the tune of Marylin Manson’s Beautiful People called Dominican Fastball), Couple that with a language barrier and your catch sessions could easily degenerate into a game of self-defense. For many US players, a Latin catch partner is not a good fit.
This may not be an issue for you. In fact, It might just be that this is the kind of adrenaline pumping thrill you need to get your day started right. You need someone to rifle the ball at you to make you feel like you’re really alive.
If, however, you are more accustomed warming up at a slow, structured, methodical pace, followed by a flat ground pitching session at reduced effort to save your bullets, partnering with a young Latin power arm might give you a heart attack, a concussion, or both.
I tell you this now because the first person you play catch with in spring training is usually the person you will end up playing catch with for the rest of it. If you naively wander out onto the practice field only to find that pal you thought would never leave you is cheating on you with another arm, you will get stuck with the guy with a cannon for an arm, the guy who always wants to work on his split finger at max effort, or the guy who was drafted because the brass believes “he’ll be amazing if he ever learns how to control it.”
Send out some emails now, post on some Facebook walls, let fly a few text messages and lock your partner down well before day one. You’ll be glad you did when you watch those who didn’t head into the training room to ice their shins and palms.
If you do find yourself with a young Latin fire-baller, the most useful piece of Spanish I can give you is, “tranquilo”. It means “chill out”. Put both your hands up and say it over and over again like you were trying to convince the Hulk not to smash you. Yes, he will probably think you are less of a man for not being able to take his flames, but survival is your primary goal.